Formulated in the mid-1800’s, acrylic has evoked modernity since it was first commercially developed in the early 1900’s.
Scientifically, clear acrylic is a generic term for PMMA—synthetic polymer of methyl methacrylate; while Lucite®—MMA—is trademarked. The key difference is at the chemical, base level and is apparent in how both are best used. Acrylic is usually formed into sheets while Lucite® is typically hand-cast, almost crystal clear, often deliberately made with inclusions.
First marketed in 1936, it’s been used in many places for many items—but none more than replacing glass for safety reasons.
Having few reactions with human tissue, specifically in and around the eyes, splinters from acrylic sheets were far less harmful if impacted. This realization opened the door to over-sized sheeting for public aquariums and guards around ice hockey rinks—not to mention contact lenses and safer shields for helmets and airplanes. Remember the war-time montage from It’s a Wonderful Life when “Sam Wainwright made a fortune in plastic hoods for planes.”?
Starting around 1957-75—around the time of the space race and disco days—‘ultra-modern’ goods were revived and further developed as home furnishings. In the past few years, acrylic and Lucite® have gained favor in women’s fashions—especially in shoe heels this year.
Besides chrome, few materials have an undeniable and unmistakable air of modernity as acrylic. Its streamlined nature is perfectly married to sleek profiles—which open the imagination to multi-uses in a variety of spaces.